Save Madison the Dog from the Pound

MadisonWhen I was about three years old, I ran crying to my mother. “Pat bit me,” I sobbed.

“You deserved it,” she answered.

That is as fair a portrait of a Family Dog as I can give you. My mother knew her dog, a black Lab bitch that was the envy of my father’s hunting friends and the dame of two large litters that would include two Montana Field Trial Champions. If my mother’s protégé bit me, I had teased her or annoyed her and ignored her growls until she was pushed to the edge. It was the kind of thing I would do and my mother knew Pat’s patience extended pretty far. In that sense, Pat and I were equal members in the balance of my family’s life.

There have been notices up in the local pet stores and on Craigslist for the last few weeks regarding Madison, a hound-Lab mix adopted at eight weeks from a City shelter, who may be a family’s dog but is not a Family Dog. She’s now 60 pounds and over four years old. Her owners have had two kids in that time and have decided she doesn’t fit their new lifestyle. Despite Madison’s affection for the youngsters, they want to find the dog another home. Their patience is running out. If the dog isn’t adopted by Saturday, March 21st, they intend to take her back to the A.S.P.C.A. shelter they got her from.

It’s lucky they got her from the A.S.P.C.A., a no-kill organization, because it has a policy of taking back any dogs adopted from its shelters. Otherwise, they evaluate dogs that are given up for adoption for physical and behavioral problems. Dogs over 40 pounds go on a wait list for acceptance because they have so little room for them, and so few people want them.

There lies the rub. The tragedy for a dog like Madison is that she thrives on exercise, attention, companionship and reinforced training. How, if she doesn’t luck out and get adopted quickly, does she get that in a cage? Her unmanageability and excitability, not unusual qualities for a dog that doesn’t have consistent training, will get worse in a shelter. A dog that needs love and a certain amount of freedom will die from the same medical condition that kids die from when they’re habitually ignored: failure to thrive. The A.S.P.C.A. can guarantee she will be fed, medically treated and even given as much affection as a busy shelter can provide, but it’s not a home, it’s a benign prison.

Last week, a respondent to my post wrote of “what a great neighborhood we live in”. Maybe we can put our kibble where our snarkiness is for once. Maybe someone reading this wants a Family Dog rather than a dog hanging out around a family.

I’ll put you in touch with Madison if you respond to this post, whether she’s in Brooklyn Heights or in the shelter she came from. She comes with three months of free walks and a bag of Iams, out of gratitude from a couple of her fans.

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  • John Wentling

    Disposable pets – here’s an idea, take one or both kids back to the hospital.

  • alex

    Hope Madison finds a home.

    And, by the way, how irresponsible of her owners! When will people stop thinking of pets as novelty items they can get when they’re young and fun, and then get rid of when having a pet becomes inconvenient? I’m hardly an animal rights activist, but such lack of foresight angers me.

  • frances k

    Madison’s owner has let me know that they’ve decided not to take the dog back to the shelter this weekend. At least we’ve done this much.

  • hickster

    I am saddened by Madison’s plight and hope she finds a home, but I don’t think we just be so quick to judge the owners. All we know about this dog is what we have read in this post. We have not heard the owners’ side regarding what prompted this decision. There are obviously plenty of people around who treat dogs the same as, if not better, then there own children. I think that is always the goal, but each dog owner’s unique reality may that more difficult to achieve for some.

  • Willowtown

    Hickster, I’m sure the owners have their reasons and explanations, but at the end of day they still got a dog that they ultimately couldn’t care for. That’s irresponsible. I do give them credit, however, for holding off on taking the dog to the pound and waiting a while longer to find a suitable new home. At least that’s something.

  • Nancy

    How sad to have a dog for years and then to say: move on! We don’t want you any more.


    Why don’t these damned yuppie couples think of their dog as their first child? I mean I have no children but my dog is my dogter! I love her like a child so I don’t understand why people even bother. They don’t even deserve children in my opinion!

  • Jazz

    Dogs are animals, just ask Marie Provost.

  • R

    Can you tell us a bit more about Madison’s personality – you don’t have to be so poetic about it. :) Just having some more straightforward information about her would help when making a decision on whether she’d be a good fit in someone’s family.

    So – is she dominant or submissive when in a group of other dogs? How does she react to noises/strangers/bigger dogs/smaller dogs/aggressive dogs? Does she share food and toys well? Does she need a child-free, cat-free, or other-dog-free home? How is her house-training? What is her personality? Is she goofy, serious, a guard dog, playful, shy, loving, etc.?

  • madison’s mom

    This is Madison’s mom here with a response to everyone. First and foremost, we love Madison dearly and are very sad to see her go. However, Madison has been an extremely challenging dog for over four years and we have done everything in our power to make her happy, healthy and well-adjusted. Unfortunately for us and for her, our home environment is never going to provide what Madison needs. Unfortunately for her and for us, the blog post above was irresponsible and ill-informed, and didn’t do any service toward the end-goal of finding Madison a new home. But what is done is done. Here are the facts.

    The good stuff: Madison is a beautiful and sweet dog who gets by on her looks. She thinks she is a lap-dog and would spend 24 hours sleeping on me if I let her. She craves constant attention and affection. She loves to run and play off leash; she needs lots of regular exercise and she is motivated by affection and attention versus treats. She is house-trained and very obedient.

    The not-so-good stuff: Madison has severe separation and stranger anxiety. she hates to be alone (as many dogs do) but in her case, it is dangerous: she has destroyed furniture, property and hurt herself trying to escape to be with her family (she jumped through and broke the sunroof or our car, jumped out of three windows in a summer rental home, and used to repeatedly make herself bleed trying to escape from her crate.) She was denied access to doggy day care here in Brooklyn because the staff thought she would hurt herself.

    We were threatened with eviction from our NYC apartment before moving to Brooklyn, because Madison would howl and cry when we went to work for hours on end. To combat all of this, we hired behavioral specialists (I hired Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer’s NYC trainer) to work with Madison. We put her on Prozac. We did obedience training and used to walk around with walkie talkies and only dine in our immediate proximity so we could go home and be with Madison when she got too upset. We got her to the point of being able to leave her alone in our apartment with only minor incidents.

    After our first child, Madison continued to improve because she was home with the baby and the nanny. However, as our toddler has grown and we have welcomed a second baby to the home, Madison’s challenges have changed and worsened again. While she is wonderful with our babies and loves them and protects them, her stranger anxiety has only gotten worse. She growls at children and other dogs if she is out with the babies (which is her protective gene and we love her for it), however, it means we can’t take her out with the babies. More importantly, it means we can’t have children over to our home. While I am 100% certain Madison would never hurt our babies intentionally (she does of course knock over our toddler regularly barreling down the hallway when the doorbell rings) I am not at all certain she wouldn’t hurt someone else’s child. I live in constant fear that Madison will snap at a child, which is why we stopped having friends over—every parent’s worst nightmare is that their pet will harm someone else’s child, I would never forgive myself if that happened. She has gone back to crying every time we leave the house and we now leave newspapers in our hall for her to tear up to work off some of her nervous energy.

    Madison also has a nervous stomach, and tends to defecate in the house when we have company over, so that has stopped as well. We used to ship her out overnight to our dog-boarder’s home any time we entertained. Now we just don’t entertain in the house.

    The point of all of this isn’t to make Madison un-adoptable. On the contrary, we have been looking for a family to adopt Madison for months now. But we have been looking for the right family, not just any family—which means a family with another dog—that would help immensely with her separation anxiety. She would be thrilled to have a constant companion to run and play with and be with all the time. And a family that could take her to the dog park regularly and give her plenty of exercise. And a family without small children, so that would take the stranger anxiety issues off the plate. Or a family who lived outside of NYC in the country somewhere. Or a family where at least one person works at home so that if there isn’t another dog in the house, at least she has a human companion.

    Last week I had a play date with Madison with a lovely family in Park Slope who was thinking of adopting her. Their children are big kids and they recently lost their rescue dog. They loved Madison and thought she was fun and playful and sweet. But I of course had to give them full disclosure on all of her issues because that is the responsible and decent thing to do. In the end, they decided that Madison was too much for them. I was devastated but not surprised. I wanted to make it work but I knew I really needed a family with another dog or someone working from home.

    My husband and I have looked into every imaginable option for Madison—I have looked at pet sanctuaries and considered taking her down to Chile where I used to live so she could roam free in the country with my friends down there. I have decided that I won’t give up hope – we have spoken at length with the ASPCA about Madison’s special needs and we have gotten to the point of thinking they are best-suited to find her a new family that can meet her needs. I think that is a better option than shipping her off to a foreign country or letting her live with other dogs but without real human companions (the sanctuary)

    I have to put my family and children’s welfare first—all parents will understand that. Dog owners and lovers who don’t have kids—you can judge as you see fit. If you know of anyone who could or would provide a loving, caring and appropriate home environment for Madison, please email me at Thank you.

  • Jazz
  • bornhere

    Not bored. Thanks, Madison’s mom. I hope the transition works out for you, the family, and Madison.

  • Chester

    Confidential to Madison: Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes.

  • R

    (re the last few comments): Uhh, wow. Insensitive much?

  • Human


    Any way of deleting some of the douchy comments such as Chester’s?

    Chester, feel free to take your own advice. D-bag.

  • Chester

    You don’t like M*A*S*H* ?

  • A Different Jane

    To Madison’s “Mom”: You talk at length about how you are sure that Madison would not hurt your children, but then at the end of your post, you say that the reason you are giving her up is because you have to put “my family and children’s welfare first.” Which is it?

    Have you ever thought of adopting a second dog? We had a dog who is a perfect angel, and recently adopted a second who had behavior issues like Madison’s. They get along great together and we have no issues at all. We could never leave the second dog at home alone, but as long as he is with our first dog, he is fine.

    Also, you seem to think that Madison would do best in a country environment – have you ever considered moving? Rather that put her in a position where she is trapped in a shelter, perhaps you could consider Long Island, New Jersey or even a place in Brooklyn with a yard.

    The sad truth is that even though the ASPCA is a no kill option, when you return a dog to them, that is one less dog that they can save from a high kill shelter.

    Although it seems like you have done a lot for Madison, it really seems like you haven’t considered the most logical options. Perhaps you should try some of those before you send her back to a shelter.

  • John Wentling

    I was rather touched by the explanation – seems Madison’s Mom has indeed done almost everything possible, so my apologies for suggesting you return the kids, hopefully someone will look beyond the issues and adopt the little girl, employing some of the other suggestions stated herein. A companion and a yard would probably be just the ticket.

  • A Different Jane

    Let me just add one more thing: I have never had kids and never would! The trouble with all the yuppies in Brooklyn Heights is that they think their kids are more important than everything else around them: the trees, the water, the flowers, the pedestrians.

    The sad truth is that this neighborhood would be a lot better off if it had a “no children” policy. Is BH “going to the dogs?” I wish!!

  • Human

    No need to go off topic and turn this into a useless kids vs. dogs rant.

  • A Different Jane


  • Human

    I’m neutered, therefore neutral in that debate.

  • bornhere

    It’s discouraging to see how little it takes to inspire some people to cue their ugliness. In the scheme of world events, the Madison story is not top of the list; but it is clearly a difficult situation for a family. What’s the point of the oh-so-disaffected, smart-ass comments? Dogs and kids are usually perfect together, but they can both raise you up and bring you to your knees. Is there really a need for battle lines?

  • hickster

    I really have to wonder how we reached a point where people think it is incumbent upon a family to lose their friends, alienate their children, move from their community and inconvenience themselves with another animal to make a dog happy and comfortable.

    If you truly believe that a dog takes precedence over humans, that is an issue you need to handle.

    I commend Madison’s family for going as far as they did to make this work. I have done less to resolve difficult relationships with ex boyfriends.

    Judging from the volume of shrinks and AA meetings, we are surrounded by a bunch of lonely looneytunes (hello “A
    Different Jane”) who obviously are incapable of prioritizing (or perhaps realizing) normal, healthy, human relationships.

  • Human


  • hickster

    if you are talking to me Human, not anymore harsh, then the people here who suggested that people return kids to hospitals and move out of their home to accomodate a dog.

    This little gem here from Different Jane is not only harsh, but indicative of less than a full deck.

    “I have never had kids and never would! The trouble with all the yuppies in Brooklyn Heights is that they think their kids are more important than everything else around them: the trees, the water, the flowers, the pedestrians.

    The sad truth is that this neighborhood would be a lot better off if it had a “no children” policy. Is BH “going to the dogs?” I wish!!”

    There has to be a reason why we have more overbooked shrinks and AA meetings per square inch than any other neighborhood.

  • The First: A Different Jane

    I’m so sorry – I posted the first post under “A Different Jane” and someone used that name to post the 10:05 and 10:29 posts. That certainly wasn’t me. Whoever is doing that has inaccurately characterized my views.

    I apologize for whatever feelings that person may have caused – it was not me and that was not me. My intent was to offer helpful suggestions to Madison’s family, not to pass judgment on anyone’s choices in life, be it regarding children or pets.

    Again, I am sorry.

  • The First: A Different Jane

    And to the person who used “A Different Jane” to make truly tasteless and unhelpful comments, you are doing yourself a disservice. Clearly you are pro-animal, which is a position I appreciate. Your decision to hit below the belt, however, and hijack my name nullifies any positive effect that my first post may have had. Now, instead of reading my first suggestions and (maybe) considering them as helpful, people will discount them as coming from someone who is playing with “less than a full deck.”

    I’m not sure why you would choose to post under my name, but your decision to do so hurts not only me, but any chance that I may have had to help out a dog in need of a home or a second chance.

    Please consider that the next time you think about posting under someone else’s name.

  • hickster

    Sorry that happened to your Real Different Jane. That is definitely a sign of a few aces short. I appreciate that you are an animal lover, but my position is that the pendulum has swung too far in favor dogs over people.

    I find the he one-sided, ill-informed orginal post and the very first response comment “disposable pets – here’s an idea, take one or both kids back to the hospital” as disturbing proof of that fact. The thought that anyone could even a child with a dog…While both are important, they are (or should be) different relationships and there should be no question where the priority lies.

  • frances k

    BTW: Another fan of Madison, with a twenty-year career as a trainer, has offered free training to the adoptive owners.